The Lars Word: the golden dream of midtable obscurity for Sunderland

As seen by Jake
As seen by Jake

Lars Knutsen returns to these pages after a brief absence with his own thoughts on a run of form that given us assured glory, come what may on Match 3, and real hope …

This has been
a phenomenal six weeks for Sunderland football club.

After a miserable and turbulent start to the 2013-14 season, Sunderland were favourites to go down, gaining just one point in the first seven games.

With the sacking of the erratic and dictatorial Paulo Di Canio. a quiet revival has taken place under Guy Poyet, who has restored the fortunes of the team in a way that Ellis Short and CEO Margaret Byrne could only have dreamed of when they appointed the Uruguayan to the Stadium of Light hot seat. There was some momentum starting to show during the early part of December, but now we are on a terrific run.

Poyet has brought a real solidity to the team and with Saturday’s win at Newcastle, we are now on 24 points, making us one of the top five teams on recent form:, with the hosts second bottom to Fulham.

The 3-0 win was an almost perfect away performance against a Geordie team looking demoralised after Cabaye’s departure to PSG. I have a grudging admiration for what Alan Pardew has achieved with such a calamitous boardroom to deal with, one that may explain why there were rumours of him showing interest in the Palace job back in the capital.

The Black Cats’ revival has been catalysed by the run in the Carling Cup that has brought the team back into the limelight with some terrific performances.

Bardsley, Borini and Brown have all been born again and Johnson’s form has been a revelation, but to be honest one cannot fault any of the players at the moment. Mannone has been an excellent shot-stopper, O’Shea has benefited from the steadiness of Brown alongside him, and there have been some quietly solid performances from Ki.

Improvement across a broad front is personified in the form of Jack Colback, who did not score last season, but hit that late equaliser at Cardiff and fired a terrific clincher which killed off the Mags at the weekend

Alonso has been an excellent acquisition at left-back, which has been a problem position for the club for some years, really since George McCartney held that berth.

So the question I have is, what do we have to show from the Di Canio/De Fanti era?

When Brown and O’Shea were unavailable for that superb win at Everton on Boxing Day, the Lads had the following line-up: 25 Mannone, 12 Celustka, 02 Bardsley, 33 Cattermole, 21 Diakité, 29 Roberge. 07 Larsson, 04 Ki, 09 Fletcher (Altidore – 87′), 14 Colback (Giaccherini – 70′) and 31 Borini.

So if my memory serves me right, there were seven Di Canio era signings as part of a truly gutsy performance, bringing that 1-0 win at Goodison park.

But on that amazing semi-final night at Old Trafford, only Mannone and Borini, subbed late on by Altidore, featured from Di Canio’s summer signing spree.

Mistakes have been made, and things can still go wrong, as that collective off-day against Villa at home showed.

But fans, including myself are much more optimistic than they were a couple of months ago. There is real togetherness in the team, who are willing to sweat blood for each other.

This is a crazy Premiership, with the teams from 10th downwards all in relegation trouble. Sunderland were momentarily in 12th spot last Saturday:

Given our terrible start, mid-table obscurity and a League Cup Final to look forward to seem somehow very attractive compared to possible relegation. But my final question is: did we win at Old Trafford?

It is important to me and many others, as I remember our last victory there in 1968 as a kid. Does winning an admittedly shocking penalty shoot-out mean that we won the game? Or was it just the decider after drawing on aggregate and losing the game on the night?.

I choose to see that as a win at Old Trafford, which sets Sunderland up for their biggest game in years.

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13 thoughts on “The Lars Word: the golden dream of midtable obscurity for Sunderland”

  1. Put it this way if we’d win 0-3 at OT but lost 4-0 at the SOL it would have counted for nowt, all that matters is that we reached the final .

  2. Reverting to Lars final question. We lost 2-1 at Old Trafford, having won 2-1 at SOL. It was a two-leg tie, and we won on penalties. So the answer is, yes………I think?

    • Logically, I think you’d have to say that we won over two legs, and therefore you can’t really say that we won at Old Trafford. However, it certainly felt like a win, and that’s what counts.

  3. I remember Mickey Gray saying on Talksport that under Dalgliesh , Newcastle wanted to sign him. He was approached by McDermott and offered bigger wages , better terms etc than he was on at Sunderland to join the skunks , but as Mickey Gray said himself , there was no way he was joining them, he’s a Sunderland supporter through and through.

  4. Yes, Danny Rose had a memorable stay at Sunderland and made a positive impression last season. But as a loanee he was never really one of our players.

    Di Canio and De Fanti should maybe have tried harder to sign him, but Spurs were keen on having him back

    • Did Rose really want to sign for Di Canio , we’ll never know. Alonso is quality though and I believe we have an option to buy once our premiership status is assured.

    • Alonso is still on loan. Hopefully he’ll sign but until he does he’s not one of ours either.

      Danny Rose did so well for us that his price went up and Spurs saw his value to their side. Where he was a fringe player when he came to us he showed what he could do and became part of their plans.

      I am concerned that Ki, Borini and Alonso are doing the same and if we can’t sign them at a decent fee Gus is going to have three important players to replace in the summer.

  5. Sorry I meant to say we were lucky to get money for GM in the first place, and then Keane was stupid enough to pay several times more than we got to bring him back!

  6. We were lucky to get money for McCartney who was consistently poor for us. Agree with the points above. Mickey Gray was the last good one, and that’s a long time ago now. Alonso looks as if he has been there for years, and was superb against that lot up the road last weekend.

    Over the next few months of the season I expect Jack Colback to be getting forward to great effect like he did last weekend. Having Bridcutt in front of the back 4 and Alonso tucked in behind him has provided more license to get into the final third of the field. There are more goals to come for Jack this season. Who’d bet against him getting one or making one again this weekend against Doubtfire’s lot?

  7. Agree entirely about Mickey Gray, he was an outstanding and skilful left-sided player with 363 league appearances for his home town club. He is an articulate pundit these days, often on TalkSport.

    George McCartney was brought back from West Ham for a high fee (£8M?) by Roy Keane, which apparently led to West Ham manager Alan Curbishley resigning after he claimed the player was sold against his wishes. But he had a number of injuries and never really regained his form.

    Good point, he was good in the Championship, especially under Mick McCarthy.

    • We bought both Anton Ferdinand and McCartney from West Ham in that Window. It was Ferdinand who was 8 million and McCartney was 4 million +. Curbishley did resign because of it………… he should have being jumping for joy!

  8. Alonso has been an excellent acquisition at left-back, which has been a problem position for the club for some years, really since George McCartney held that berth. – See more at: A Master piece expert that part i posted. George was only good in the championship. Michael Gray was the last time we had a premiership quality leftback in my oppinion 🙂

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